Digital Filmmaking: From Initial Concept to Final Edit

Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
I - June 25–July 13, 2018
II - July 17–August 3, 2018
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 11:10 a.m.–1:00 p.m. and 3:10–5:00 p.m.
Johnson Cheng, Mark Christopher

“A great class for filmmakers of all levels, whether you're just starting out or experienced, this course has something to offer to everybody.” — Austin Kwok

Course Description

Participants learn all the basics of making a strong, visually-driven short film with an emphasis on narrative storytelling. This course focuses on the basics of video production, essential film grammar, story development, script, music, and sound.

Working in small groups, students shoot three shorter pieces (a silent film, a shoot-out, and a film based on an Oscar-winning song) and a final film. The exercises start off simply, adding a new element of filmmaking with each new assignment. In the final film, students work sequentially through the stages of production: initial concept, synopsis, treatment, script, storyboards, and final shooting and editing.

During pre-production participants learn how to work in a group to plan for and realize a short film from concept to shooting script. During production they work together to coordinate and shoot their script. And finally in post-production they edit and polish their projects. The instructor provides guidance throughout the process, emphasizing the students’ responsibility for carrying the project from inception to completion.

On the last day of the program, students screen their completed films at a film festival attended by friends, family members, and other program participants. The completed films can potentially be used for submission to short film festivals and as portfolio pieces for film or art school applications.

Laptops are recommended but not required for this course.


Johnson Cheng

Johnson Cheng is an award-winning Chinese-American writer/director based in New York City. After receiving his B.A. in international relations, he joined Columbia University's M.F.A. Film Directing/Screenwriting program. He is a recipient of the Armed with a Camera Fellowship and is an alumnus of the Reykjavík Transatlantic Talent Lab, Telluride Student Symposium, and the Emerging Filmmakers Lab presented by the Smithsonian Institute and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His most recent film, Iron Hands (铁手), had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, was selected for the Golden Egg competition at the Reykjavík International Film Festival, and won Best Student Live Action Short at the Palm Springs International ShortFest. Johnson began his career as an intern at PIXAR, and is credited on feature films such as Monsters University and Coco. He has worked as a story editor on The Book of Mojo, assistant editor on Reel FX's The Book of Life, and assistant editor on DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda 3, the first animated co-production between the U.S. and China. He is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective Writers Workshop and the Motion Picture Editors Guild.

Mark Christopher

Mark Christopher works as a writer/director in Los Angeles, New York, and Europe and teaches directing and writing at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. His current feature project is Sara, a German/Czech co-production. He has TV pilots with Warner Brothers, Miramax, and Anonymous Content, and has written one-hour pilots for CBS, Fox, and Logo/MTV. His feature, 54: The Director’s Cut, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival to excellent reviews worldwide. Set at New York's Studio 54, the film stars Ryan Phillippe, Mike Myers, Salma Hayek, and Mark Ruffalo. It has been honored as the Gala Event, Opening Night, or Closing Night film at international film festivals in San Francisco, Turin, Guadalajara, Sydney, Zurich, Tel Aviv, Seattle, Prague and at Lincoln Center. Christopher's festival comedy hit Pizza won an Independent Spirit Award. His award-winning short films have screened at the Museum of Modern Art and numerous international film festivals, including the Berlinale, where his film Alkali, Iowa won the Teddy Award. His work has been reviewed and he has been profiled in The New York Times, The Guardian, Variety, The Wall Street Journal, Art Forum, and Vanity Fair. Christopher holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.